Most musicians start off learning treble clef, closely followed by bass clef. These are the two most common clefs, but they’re not the only clefs. In this post, we’re going to talk about alto and tenor clefs. Though less commonly used, you might see them pop up from time to time in your sheet music. We covered these clefs in a short video below. Before you watch, if you need a refresher on what “clefs” are in music, click here for our complete guide to all musical clefs.

Stick around after the video for a review and some free printables!

Let’s review what we’ve just talked about.

Alto Clef

The alto clef is one of many “C clefs” and is named as such because it’s center indicates middle C. The alto clef’s center is placed on directly in the middle of the staff, designating the third line from the bottom to middle C. Many do not learn this clef, as it is primarily only used for the viola, the viola da gamba, the alto trombone, and the mandola.

The alto clef is represented by the following symbol:

When the alto clef is indicated, the lines and spaces represent the following notes:

Tenor Clef

The tenor clef is another type of “C clef,” however it’s center is on the fourth line from the bottom, so middle C is moved up a third from where it was on the alto clef. Another less common clef, it is used for the upper ranges of the bassooncelloeuphoniumdouble bass, and trombone. These instruments use bass clef for their low to mid ranges and treble clef for their upper extremes.

The tenor clef is represented by the following symbol:

When the tenor clef is indicated, the lines and spaces represent the following notes:

FREE PDF Printables

Click here to download the PDF of alto and tenor clefs pictured below.

Click here to download the PDF for all musical clefs pictured below.


We hope you’re feeling more confident about alto and tenor clefs in music! Grab yourself some brand new sheet music from Musicnotes.com and see if you can spot them.

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